When sitting down with three quarters of RadioRadio last week to discuss the band's new disc, I had to rewind the clock a bit and look at the past twelve months to fill in some gaps. What was perhaps one of the most promising and anticipated pop acts in Tulsa (some even considered it a local "supergroup," to the chagrin of most of the band's members) came apart at the seams when three fifths of the band bowed out.
Needless to say, that left a number of unanswered questions in the minds of local music fans, including speculation on whether or not the band would be able to continue.
"The thing was," bassist Paul Cristiano explained matter-of-factly, "the last show we played with the last lineup, it had taken up to 11 months to get to that point. When we played with Gravity Kills (at the Cain's Ballroom in June 2007) it was by far our best show as a band. After that it was over."
"We never really hit on all cylinders before that at any one show," he continued. "It was like it wasn't bad but it wasn't great... At that show it finally all came together and it was like 'Well, it's over. See ya.'"
"Yeah, good job guys," vocalist Greg Hosterman chimed in. "We finally nailed it and now we're hanging it up."
Most bands would have thrown in the towel when facing a similar situation and, with all due respect, many people expected that from RadioRadio. After all, this was the band that made its live debut to rave reviews at DFest 2006 on the big stage, and less than a year later it had deflated.
Nevertheless, Hosterman and Cristiano did their best to pick up the pieces, utilizing Greg's brother, Ben Hosterman, to fulfill outstanding obligations like DFest 2007 and picking up occasional acoustic gigs to keep the RadioRadio name alive while pondering their future.
While Hosterman readily admits it was a "proverbial wind out of your sails" experience, his musical counterpart's straightforward explanation of the situation leaves no doubt about the intentions of the band.
"At first it was a real downer," said Cristiano. "But I knew if Greg and I stuck it out, that as bad as it seemed at the time, it could equally be just as great because we still really believed in the record and believed in the songs."
With that mindset, the songwriting partners set out to redeem what they had started and right their course, despite anyone else's expectations.
"If you're going to make it in this business, you have to have a thick skin," Hosterman told me. "And the concept of this band was mine and Paul's from the start. We started in the parking lot at Garden Ridge, conceptualizing the songs and the band, so it really wasn't that difficult to..."
"It was just back to square one," Cristiano interjected.
"The thing that was difficult about it was that you felt like so much time had passed and so much energy had been exerted," Hosterman continued. "But in graphic design we always say 'When you screw it up, it's always easier the second time around...'"
Armed with a renewed sense of purpose, Cristiano and Hosterman started on their quest to find the right players to complete the band as they originally envisioned it and continued to write music to keep the creative process flowing.
Turned Back On
RadioRadio (v2.0) made its live Tulsa debut at RocBar 18 (now closed) on October 6, 2007 and having been at the show, I'll admit to being a little skeptical myself. While new guitarist Jay Hunt and drummer Paul Sanders filled the gap, the band was still a little raw and missed a few beats.
During the course of the past eight months, however, the group has tightened up considerably and become perhaps more of a "band" than its first incarnation ever appeared to be. Now reacting to each other instead of to musical queues, the group is still less polished, but has a more seat-of-your-pants approach that is essential to a band's live persona.
As an observer, I see RadioRadio as a completely different animal. While the band members don't take the music any less serious, it's obvious that they are now beginning to enjoy the live gigs and are approaching them with more of a "rock show" attitude than a "performance" oriented mindset. Case in point: at more than one show, including a pivotal showcase at SXSW in March, the normally stoic Cristiano has actually been seen flashing a wide grin, perhaps remembering why he originally joined a rock band to begin with.
With the past now behind them and an equally promising future ahead, the group has a new EP ready for release this weekend. And while the title cut, "Alarm 1 Alarm 2," may have originated before the collapse of the group's original lineup, it's still very much a reflection of the current band, especially when considering its evolution.
"That song went through a lot of iterations before it became what it is today, but Jay had a lot to do with that, even though that was the first thing we decided to work on," said Cristiano.
"It's hard to remember exactly how that process went, but the song was completely different," Hosterman explained. "The verse was different and then the chorus got rethought and then Paul's wife said 'I like it, but it doesn't really speak to me.' I went home the next day and was like, 'I'm going to rethink it. I'm going to rewrite it..."
"It's interesting to me," Hosterman reflected, "because I was listening to the song today and it feels like the crux of that song is somebody paralyzed, not able to move forward and then having these wake up calls. I just think that's interesting as an analogy to the rise and fall of this band, that the wake up calls -- they're also sort of revelations that this is what has happened and this is why it happened."
"Ultimately, it's sort of internalized. To me, what have I got to do to fix and change it?" Hosterman continued. "So the author of the song sort of takes ownership of his own plight and I like that about it. I like that it's, in a small way, sort of analogous to the M.O. of this band - that we forge ahead."
While some may fear that the band's evolution strays from the sound and vibe of the debut disc, that's not the case. While Cristiano admits to "loosening the screws" a bit, the new EP is a logical progression from Watch 'Em All Come Runnin', both sonically and lyrically. Perhaps the only difference is that the band wears its influences a bit more prominently on its sleeve; from the INXS derived dance and funk beat of "BBC" to the nearly gothic-electronic, Joy Division-esque feel of "I, Computer."
Throughout all the songs, however, the common thread of the EP is a man (or band) in survival mode, which comes across most blatantly in the ballad "Ghost" with a chorus refrain of "Never going to give up the ghost, never give it up..."
That's exactly what we're witnessing with RadioRadio, a rock band with a "never say die" attitude that is moving forward with more conviction than ever.
Although the past eight months may have seemed quiet on the home front, the band has actually played more shows than it did in the 11 months of its previous incarnation. It has been playing out of town (including SXSW in Austin, St Louis, Kansas City and Memphis) and has found time to produce a new EP with Nathan Brandt at the producer's helm. Mixing and mastering from the production team of Brad Mitcho and Wayne Morgan not only solidified the band's signature sound, but symbolically serves to ties up any loose ends in the transition of the band.
On Friday night, June 20, all the hard work comes to fruition as RadioRadio holds the CD release party for Alarm 1, Alarm 2 at the Blank Slate. Stateside and My Solstice will open the show and cover is only $7 at the door. If you've been wondering exactly would happen with RadioRadio, this is your best opportunity to see why it's a new beginning (as opposed to the beginning of the end) for what is still one of Tulsa's most promising pop-rock bands.
Well, it's that time again. Another week has snuck by us and the weekend is upon us. Summer is the season for live music in Tulsa, and we've got plenty of it around town. Because there are so many choices this week, I've pulled together a few highlights to get you started in the right direction. Of course, if none of these suit your taste, make sure and scan the Live Music listings on page 42 or the Events calendar on page 48.
Thursday nights have become a great springboard for the weekend scene and this week is no exception. To get started, we can't overlook the Tulsa Press Club/Urban Tulsa Soundproof concert series at happy hour. This month's spotlight artist is singer songwriter Mindy Barlett. Make sure to stop in between 5pm and 7pm to share a drink with us and enjoy the cozy digs (and air conditioning). June 19 also sees Cairde na Gael hold court at Arnie's and Lil' Ed and the Blues Emperiols rock Exit 6C to kick-start your weekend.
Friday night, June 20, highlights include NewVo alumnus Kawnar at Crush Lounge with Your Final Thought, Lifetime Guarantee and Givin'; Dance!Robots!Dance! at Soundpony for the indie crowd and Swampfox at Exit 6C for the rockers.
The can't miss party of the weekend (if you're not at RadioRadio), however, is Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers' return to Dirty's Tavern on Friday night with Brandon Clark Band opening. Clyne's got a new CD, Turbo Ocho, in hand and a great live show that calls for plenty of cerveza and "ta-kill-ya", so have fun and proceed with caution!
Saturday, June 21, is busy downtown with JazzFest at the Depot, featuring Jr. Markham, David Skinner, Glenn R Townsend, Homemade Jamz and Eldredge Jackson all jamming out under the stars.
Just a few blocks away, The Blank Slate hosts a Habitat for Humanity fundraiser show with a whole stack of bands donating their time. I've yet to receive a full lineup, but I do know that John Moreland and the Black Gold Band and GANEM will be appearing, so make sure and stop in. Across the tracks, Cody Clinton and the Bishops are celebrating the release of its new CD with Vandevander opening at The Marquee (formerly Mooch & Burn), which will be another no-brainer for straight up rock fans.
And on the south side of town, Crush Lounge welcomes Tantric for a $12 show ($15 at the door) with Vayden, Foster Child and Acropolis opening on Saturday, June 21.
The following night, Acacia Strain hits the Crush Lounge with All Shall Parish, Eternal Load, Since the Flood and Hospice in tow. Tickets are $12 in advance or $14 at the door.
The Cain's owns the rest of the week with The Expendables and Insolence at Bob's on Sunday the 22nd and ballroom shows by Matisyahu with Sam & the Stylees and Hiphopotamus opening on the 23rd and Sevendust with Pillar, A New Revolution, Solidium and Overscene on Tuesday the 24th.
I'll see you at the show!
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